Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Smooth Homeschool Day

Is there such a thing as a smooth homeschool day? What about a smooth day in general?  While no day is perfect, I believe that we can takes steps to encourage a day that flows fairly smoothly.  Now this does not take into consideration the inevitable mishaps, but having a routine in place creates stability in your day.  Children thrive with the security of routine.  You don't have to be a drill sergeant or a tedious clock watcher with a timer, but finding your own personal rhythm to your own school day, and then teaching and implementing the routine to your children, will make for a productive day.  (Well, on most days!)

I wrote a post for Real Life At Home (formerly The Homeschool Classroom) three years ago entitled, 10 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Day Run Smoothly.  This article sums up my thoughts about creating a rhythm to your homeschool day.

We completed our 6th day of homeschool for this school year yesterday.  Fortunately, the schedule/routine that I created for us to follow is working smoothly.  When Julie begins her online college courses later this month, I may have to adjust our routine slightly….it depends on how well our internet provider cooperates with the online classes!  For the first few days, she may need me to help her navigate her courses, and I will have to make allowances in my routine for this.  The younger children will be comfortable with their schoolwork by this time, and I am hoping that they will be able to work independently while I assist her.

Olivia will be going back to college soon.  We are slowly packing her up.  Thankfully I saved the master list that I typed for her last August, and now it's just a matter of putting items in boxes/bags/suitcases/ and checking them off the list.  We stored a lot of her things at her school, so we do not have as much to carry this time.

My blogging will be sporadic as I adjust to the hours of marathon training, homeschooling for 7 hours a day, the children's extra activities beginning, and keeping the household running as well.

Have a great day!

"She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."
Proverbs 31:27

Friday, August 8, 2014

Your Scheduling Questions Answered

Do you plan your group classes together first? 
I only do Bible with all of my children together.  They are welcome to listen to each other's Sonlight books, but Bible is the only thing that I require all of them to be with me at the same time.  I choose our Bible time based on what time I think all children will be awake, fed, and through with their chores.  I also take into consideration if I am training for a marathon or not, and realistically what time I will consistently be home from running.  Over the past several years we have had our Bible time anywhere between 8:00 and 10:00 AM.  This school year our Bible time is at 9:00 AM.  I have on my schedule to do writing and chemistry (when needed) with Clay (10th grade)  from 8-9.  I am making sure that I am through running by 7:45.  Julie (12th grade) is working on her online classes from 8-9, and Leah and Sam are eating breakfast, doing chores, and beginning their independent school work from 8-9.  We do our Bible lesson from 9:00-9:30.

How do you plan to be with each child at a certain time during the day and not cross over onto another child's time? 
I plan very carefully!  :)
I highly recommend reading and implementing the scheduling methods in Managers of Their Homes (MOTH), sold at Titus2.com.  I also have learned many tips which I use on a daily basis from Teri Maxwell's other books (sold on the same website), Managers of Their Schools and Managers of Their Chores.  I used to use the sticky tack and the huge spreadsheet that is included in MOTH when planning my new school year schedule.  Now I just pull up my last year's schedule and delete, add, and rearrange blocks in the table.  Then I rename it, save it, and print it out.  
But actually it's way more involved than that!
It takes a little bit of trial and error to get it all work out, but now I pretty much follow a similar schedule from year to year.

Here is an overview of my current school year schedule:
  • 8-9:  work with Clay; Julie does online classes; Leah and Sam do chores and begin independent school (using a laminated checklist that I have prepared)
  • 9-9:30:  Bible with all
  • 9:30-11:00:  Clay and Julie work alone; I assist Leah and Sam with all schoolwork except science and Sonlight
  • 11-11:30:  science with Leah and Sam; Julie and Clay work alone
  • 11:30-12:30:  school with Clay (check all his work, go over algebra, etc.); Leah and Sam finish up any schoolwork needed, Julie work alone (or she may be done by this time)
  • 12:30-1:30:  lunch.  I check email, attend to laundry, clean the kitchen, etc.
  • 1:30-3:00:  Sonlight with Leah and Sam.  I am doing 2 Cores.  I do one Core and then the other.  I alternate which Core I begin with each day.  Clay and Julie finish up any school work and then have free time.
  • 3:00:  I check Julie's schoolwork (really not that much, and I usually do it before this time.
  • extra activities, errands, housework, laundry, etc.
  • 5:00:  cook supper, kids do evening chores
Which leads me to these last questions.

School takes all day. When and how do you fit in all of your cleaning? How do you divide your chores with your kids and when do they do them if school starts around 8am? after school? 

We have very specific chore charts and lists.  The children  have before school chores (things like bring dirty clothes, pet care, make beds, etc.) and they also have evening chores (things like tidying different areas of the house, both inside and out, putting away clean laundry, taking out trash, etc.)  In addition to these daily chores, each child has weekly chores (things like dusting and vacuuming their rooms, cleaning out my vehicle, taking the trash to the road, cleaning bathrooms, etc.).  I divided my housework into areas and jobs, and everyone, even my 8yo has work to do each week.  I do not assign a specific day for these weekly chores to be done, but they must be completed by Saturday night.  I assess fines for any chore not completed by Saturday night.  Thankfully, I rarely collect any money!  I also do my fair share of the housework--the jobs that no one likes to do and the jobs that take the most time.  I usually do my housework 2-3 afternoons a week or on Saturday.

So, no, my house is not completely clean from top to bottom on any given day, but the whole house is cleaned once a week--just not all clean at the same time.  
I will add, that I do have a housekeeper that comes once a week and cleans my main floor.  That is a huge help, and I am very grateful that I have this help.  
My children are hard workers!  Jimmy is a hard worker too, and we just seem to keep the household running.  Our house is  never "magazine perfect", but it's homey and for the most part clean and orderly.

One last tip:  We pick up all the clutter every day

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our First Day Of School

We started our 2014-1015 school year bright and early Monday morning….about 7:30 AM.  I had a special breakfast ready.  (Normally our breakfast is self-serve).

I shopped at our local teacher supply store a few weeks ago, and I bought several products with the same apple theme/print.  I had fun planning our back-to-school celebration with these apples things.

Here is the table…..I copied a table I had seen on Pinterest….with a few modifications.

 I hot-glued green felt pieces cut out like leaves to the red plates. On the right are two pieces of chalk tied with ribbon.  The chalk is for writing on the placemats!  Another Pinterest idea!  I spray-painted old vinyl placemats with chalkboard paint.  It took three coats, and some of the placemats wrinkled up, but I had 5 that turned out fairly smooth, so I used those for the children's place settings.  I taped an alphabet letter initial on each child's cup, and I made a place card using white card stock, red paper, and the apple stickers that I bought.

I made this banner by glueing some of the apple cutouts and the black letters on a banner I bought from Hobby Lobby.

Here are the children enjoying their breakfast.
Then they drew on their placemats.

After breakfast, we had our annual back-to-school treasure hunt.  I had 9 clues that the children took turn reading and figuring out, and then for clue #10, I typed up 5 separate clues, one for each child, which led to the treasure.  This year's treasure was a pack of Sharpies for everyone except Olivia, who got Frixion erasable pens.

One last thing before actually beginning our schoolwork was to take the first day of school pictures.

We began school later than what I have planned for regular school days.  I think it was 9:00 before we started.  We did our Bible lesson and worked on other school work for a while, and then we took a snack break.  Again, this is a first day of school treat---normally, snacks are self serve too--when you are hungry.
Both snack ideas were from Pinterest.  Jimmy made the popcorn sacks (out of notebook paper), and he helped me get the "chalk" out of the straws.  (I melted white chocolate candy discs, sucked them into a straw, and froze them until they were hard).

We did more schoolwork after our snack break, and then I had one more special surprise for the day:  homemade alphabet soup.  (I had put it in the crock pot earlier in the day).

We continued with our schoolwork until 4:00 that afternoon!  It did not take all of my children until 4:00 to complete their work, but it took me that long to work with my children and check their work.

And then I canned a batch of tomatoes!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Some Planning Links And Ideas

First, some answers to one reader's questions.  (I'll get to the healthy meal planning and preparing in another post).

When you plan, do you plan by starting with your oldest first and working your way down?
If you mean my actual planning out my lessons for each child, yes.  I begin with the oldest, and completely prepare his schoolwork.  Then I move to the next child, and so on until it is all done.  This cannot be done in one day.  At least not for me.  I typically take at least one day per child.  One reason it takes so much time for me to plan each child's year is that I am planning for the entire school year

 I look at our calendar and mark all of our days off, vacation days, etc.,  This year I used a form that I found at TeachersPayTeachers.com.  After marking all weekends, vacations, holidays and such, I figured out which day we would need to begin in order to get 160 days of school squeezed in.  We will begin August 4.

Next, I look at the curriculum and plug in assignments with dates that correspond to my calendar.  I only do this for certain subjects.  For subjects like math and grammar, they know to simply complete the next lesson.  

Here is a sample of one of my plans:  Notgrass World History for my 10th grader.  This is printed on one page, and given to my child to keep in the front of his notebook.  He checks off assignments as they are completed.  I have a similar plan already typed and printed for second semester.  I like to do the entire year before we begin, so I don't have to spend every Sunday night getting ready for the next week.
You will notice that the dates do not reflect a traditional Monday-Friday school week.  They are dated to include 5 days that we will do school.  My children do school for 80 days each semester, but these 80 days are not in 16 straight Monday-Friday weeks.

World History
August 4,-December 15, 2014

  • Each school day complete one lesson in the textbook.
  • Omit the Project assignments at the beginning of each unit.
  • Do complete the Bible and Literature assignments at the beginning of each unit.
  • After each day's lesson, complete the questions in the Student Review Book. Answer the questions in a notebook
  • Please give me the answers each day to check.
  • At the end of each unit, please take the Quiz. The quizzes will be in your Test Binder. You may use your notes or your book to help you with the quizzes. You will take the quiz on the same day that you finish the last lesson in each unit.
  • After units 5, 10, and 15, you will take an exam. You will need to complete a study guide and study for the exam during the week of the units prior to each exam (units 5, 10, and 15). The next day you will take the exam, and then begin reading the next lesson. The exams can be found in your Test Binder.

Aug 4 - Aug 8
Unit 1
Oct 31 - Nov 10
Unit 11
Aug 11 - Aug 15
Unit 2
Nov 10 - Nov 17
Unit 12
Aug 19 - Aug 27
Unit 3
Nov 18 - Nov 24
Unit 13
Aug 28 - Sept 3
Unit 4
Nov 25 - Dec 4
Unit 14
Sept 4 - Sept 10
Unit 5, study guide
Dec 5 - Dec 11
Unit 15, study guide
Sept 11 ***
Exam 1
Dec 15 ***
Exam 3
Sept 12 - Sept 19
Unit 6

Sept 22 - Sept 26
Unit 7

Oct 8 - Oct 14
Unit 8

Oct 15 - Oct 22
Unit 9

Oct 23 - Oct 29
Unit 10, study guide

Oct 30 ***
Exam 2

For my high-school children this year, I created plans like this for world history, economics, American Government, Spanish, and IEW.

Here is a sample of Teaching The Classics (IEW).  This is a 5 week or 25 school day course.

Teaching the Classics

Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Read "The Ransom of the Red Chief" by O. Henry.
Complete Homework Lesson 1.
Take Lesson 1 Quiz. Review homework.
Watch DVD (60 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 2.
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 3.
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 4.
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 5
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for The Homeschool Classroom  (now called Real Life At Home) in 2012.  It explains how I homeschool multiple aged children.  You can click here to read this post.

Planning for my elementary aged children does not take as much time.  We use Sonlight, so that is all planned out for me.  I have used this curriculum for years, so all of my books are already labeled.  I did order my final new core this summer, Core E, and I had to insert the lesson plans into the binder.  I also had to purchase about 10 new books, so I labeled them and added them to Core E's bookshelf.  (I had previously done the combo D/E core, so I had a lot of the books).  

For elementary Apologia science, I just looked at my school calendar and determined that if spend 6 school days for each chapter, we can complete two of their courses this school year (botany and astronomy). I am not sure if this is a good idea or not.  I will see as the school year progresses. So I copied the suggested schedule that is included in the Apologia student notebooks, and wrote the dates that we needed to complete each chapter by.  Again, this took me a little bit of time last week, but I have saved myself many, many minutes throughout the year.  Anything I can do now to save me time once we actually begin school, I do it.

I will answer the other homeschool planning questions over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Trip to the Zoo

Monday our family and our friend, Jessica, visited the Memphis Zoo.  Even though it is July, we are having a "cool spell" here in Mississippi, and the weather was really nice.

We spent our time in one side of the zoo, and so I plan to take the children back soon to visit the other side.

We began by watching the sea lions show, and then we ate lunch.

 Lunch at the "Cat House"

 Seeing the elephants.
Olivia reminded us of the difference between African and Asian elephants.
(I can't remember which kind these were!)

After lunch and the elephants, we watched the grizzly bears being fed.  There were three bears, and right before feeding time, there they were, heads up, waiting for the food to be dropped!

 "I'm hungry!"

After being fed various fresh fruits and then a hunk of frozen fruit in some sort of popsicle, these bears were ready to play!  I think we stood and watched these two bears interact, chase, and play for at least twenty minutes.  It was quite entertaining.

We visited some more animals, and then posed the children for a picture.

 Sam, Clay, Leah, Olivia, and Julie

Our last stop before heading back to the car (well, the next to last stop……Leah and Sam wanted to visit the huge gift shop first) was to wade in the stream.

After leaving the zoo, we went to Target.  Because of course if we go to Memphis, we have to visit Target!  We all had an afternoon snack of Starbuck's coffee (and Icees for Leah and Sam) while we looked all around Target.  We were able to get a few things that Olivia needed to take back to school, so that was productive.

Yesterday I canned more tomatoes!  Actually I made 9 pints of spaghetti sauce out of that batch of tomatoes.  Tomorrow I am canning black beans, and probably on Saturday I'll have more tomatoes ready to can.  And that will be it for a while.  I plan to put all my canning paraphernalia back in the basement---it's all on my dining room table right now.  We start school next Monday, and I don't think I will have time to can anymore.

I'll post homeschool planning links and tips beginning tomorrow---at least that's my plan!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Planning, Not Canning

Yesterday I spent every spare moment that I had planning for our upcoming school year.  I thought about blogging the process, but I did not want to take the time out yesterday while I was working.  I hope to finish it all up today.

I also redid our chore charts and made a new school day schedule.  I was concerned at first that there was no way to fit all subjects in the day, but I think I have a workable plan.  It requires that we begin at 8:00 AM.  That is not a problem, except that I also crazily signed up for a marathon in December.  So, I am not sure how I am going to get a long run in and still be ready for school at 8:00 AM.  Thankfully, the long run is only once a week, and I can do it on Saturdays sometimes.

Our outside the home activities this year are the same as in the past.
Piano:  once a week--Julie, Leah, and Clay
XC:  twice a week--all children
art:  5 times each semester--Leah and Sam

Hopefully I can write or republish a series of posts regarding school planning and scheduling.  What topics would you like covered?  Leave me a comment, and I'll be happy to answer your questions.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Canning and Planning

That's the theme of my days lately.  I canned pinto beans today.  7 quarts.  I have learned that I prefer to can in pint jars instead of quarts, because my pressure canner will hold 19 pints, but only 7 quarts.  However, I bought a case of quart jars, and I want to use them.  I think I have 5 or 6 quart jars left.

Kelly asked me last night (while Jimmy and I were eating supper with Kelly and Lynn) why was I canning all this food.  "Are you preparing for some world-wide disaster?"  I told him that I didn't know why I was doing all this canning.  Well, the tomatoes are coming in like crazy, and it's either can them or let them ruin….but for the beans…..I can't remember why I thought that buying 75 pounds of dried beans and canning them was such good idea.

Except that they taste so much better than the cans you buy in the grocery store.  And I hope that I am buying myself some time when school starts---it's a lot faster to open up a home-canned jar of beans and reheat them than to remember to soak dried beans overnight, and then either cook them all day in the crock pot of watch them simmer on the stove top for 2 hours.  I think I will be glad come fall.

I just made a Final School Planning To-Do List.  It is as long as the piece of paper in my notebook!  And I did not even itemize the things to get Leah's and Sam's school ready.  Once I get all subjects planned, organized, and ready for each child, I will tackle the huge project of creating a daily schedule for us to follow.  Going with the flow does not work for me!  I am not a slave to my schedule, but putting in all on paper and seeing how it could possibly work in a perfect world gives me a goal to aim for.

I'm going to work on my school list now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Canning and Complaining

I drove to Nashville and back yesterday to pick up Olivia and Julie.  Since I was in the car for over 8 hours, and half of that I was alone, I did not have that much opportunity to complain!  It's easy to not complain when you don't have an audience.  Or anything to trigger the complaint.

On the way home, when we had about 85 miles left, all of a sudden there was a huge tree in the road.  So of course, the first thing I did after I stopped was to take a picture of it!  :)

This gave me an opportunity to complain……I did not say anything while several complaining thoughts went through my head.

This is going to make me late getting home…..I have so much do when I get home…..I will be late cooking supper…..I have no idea really where I am nor how to get to a road that will leave me home…..I have to can tomatoes tonight……

But instead I just turned around, headed in the opposite direction, got off the Natchez Trace, and waited for my GPS to reroute itself.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Nothing.

So we drove a couple of miles south on this unknown highway (because I knew that my home was south of where I was!), and then I pulled over into a parking lot and let my GPS do its work.

Finally.  It gave me a path home.  After about a 20 mile detour, we ended back on the Natchez Trace, headed south, with about 71 miles to go.  All in all, it really was not that much out of the way.

We were later than I planned getting home, but thankfully, Julie volunteered to cook supper, and I began the process of canning tomatoes.  I canned 9 pints.

Today I am canning pinto beans.  7 quarts are in the pressure canner right now.  I am going to can beans one more day this week, and tomatoes as needed, and then I am done canning for a while.

I have got to get my school plans finished and all of my things organized and ready to go.  I shopped at our teacher supply store today and bought some really cute things for our Back to School Celebration.

Oh.  On my drive to Nashville, I finished The Giver.  What an abrupt ending!  But I saw on Amazon that there is another book that should wrap things up.  I can't remember the name, but I will be reading it. We finished The Cricket on the Heath on the way home.
I am reading The Cat of Bubastes as a pre-read for Clay.  My older girls and Jimmy have all read it, but I wanted to so I could discuss it with Clay.  I am almost finished reading Carry On Mr. Bowditch (and that book is so sad!) with Leah and Sam, and I began reading to everyone The Phantom Tollbooth this morning.  We are also listening to The Candymakers in our car.

Lots of reading going on over here!

Monday, July 21, 2014

No Complaining and a Recipe

I saw this picture on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and I saved the image.  I did not visit the website, so I really have no idea about that, but the concept of not complaining for 24 hours intrigued me.  Challenged me.  I started paying attention to myself, to see how much I actually complained.  I consider myself a positive person, but when I listened to myself, I was surprised at how much I actually grumbled and complained.

It was the little things that I complained about.  Things such as, "I did not sleep well at all last night."
"Why is there torn crayon paper all over the kitchen table?"  "I will NEVER get all my school planning done before August 1st."  "I will be canning beans and tomatoes FOREVER!"

This verse kept popping into my head:

"Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…"
Philippians 2:14

It's actually pretty simple.  Do all things without complaining and disputing.  But much easier said than done.  In my mind, the opposite of complaining is gratefulness.  It 's hard to complain about a situation when you are looking for something to be thankful about.  So, I decided to repeat one of my favorite verses when I was faced with something to complain about.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have thought about this challenge of not complaining for a whole day several times over the last couple of weeks.  But until today, I have not purposed to actually do it.  So today, I will try.  I plan to be well aware of what I say.  When I perceive that a complaint is going to leave my mouth, I will purpose to pause, and then rephrase what I wanted to say.  State it with a positive slant.  Don't say it at all, if there is no benefit to the hearer, but just something to gripe about and/or vent about for me. 

I suspect this will be more difficult than I think, but I am willing to try. 

Last week I found this recipe online, but I have no idea where.  I copied it down in my notebook when I stumbled upon it, because I did not want to try to remember the website.  I made a few changes, and this is the final product.  We thought it was delicious, and I plan to serve it again this week.

Curried Cauliflower and Rice

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups shredded carrots (I do this in my food processor.)
1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 cups fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

For the dressing:
1 lemon, squeezed
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
more salt to taste

Roast cauliflower and garbanzo beans (salt them a little) at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Just check it and take it out when it is slightly brown and done.  I actually put my oven on convection, and it takes about 15 minutes. 
Combine this with the rice, carrots, and spinach in a large bowl.  Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to blend.  Pour over the rice/cauliflower mixture and stir to combine.
Let stand a few minutes for flavors to blend.

This dish has a slight Indian flavor without being too strong or spicy.  I served this with a green salad and some fresh fruit.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Little Road Trip and Some Good Books

I left at 7:00 this morning to take Olivia and Julie to Nashville to meet Olivia's college roommate and her mama for lunch.  Then Olivia and Julie went home with them (to Kentucky) to spend a long weekend.  They are attending a Jane Austen Ball on Saturday night.  I am not sure what all that involves, except for wearing beautiful costumes, but I am sure that I will learn all about it when they get home!

We listened to three-fourths of The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens during the four hour trip up there.  Then, when I was driving back alone, I listened to The Giver by Lois Lowry.  That book definitely gives you something to think about!  The theme of sameness is somewhat disturbing.  I'll finish The Giver when I drive back to pick the girls up, and then we will finish The Cricket on the Hearth on the way back home!  I download these and other audio books from Audible.com.  I have already downloaded some books for our trip to take Olivia back to college next month.  I try to have at least one book from both Leah's and Sam's Sonlight list for long trips.

I finished reading Follow My Leader last night to Leah and Sam, and tonight we will pick up Carry On Mr. Bowditch.  We are about halfway through with this book, and it is one of my favorite read alouds.  When we finish it, I plan to read aloud The Phantom Tollbooth to all five children before Olivia goes back to college.  I have read it aloud only one time, and that was a few years ago.  We really liked it, but I am anticipating stopping a lot to explain the play on words to Sam.

I am almost through with The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I am really, really enjoying this book.  I may even start a little happiness project of my own.

What books are you reading?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Julie's 17th Birthday

We celebrated Julie's birthday last Saturday.  As my girls get older, it is getting more and more difficult for me to think of new and fun ideas for their table decor.  I don't even look at Pinterest!  I try to keep it low key and use items that are actually part of their birthday gifts, instead of buying a lot of decorations that I will have to store.  

Julie has an interest in quilting (she already knows how to piece a quilt and hand quilt it), and she asked for some quilting pattern books and fabric for her birthday.  Both sets of grandparents gave her money for her birthday gift, and so she is going to buy exactly what she wants.  However, I bought a few small items that were quilt related to use for table decorations.

 The Table
The three baskets in the middle came from my party box.

 Each basket held items like yarn (not quilt-related, but they matched the paper goods), quilting pins and needles, a quilting thimble, and some quilting fabric strips.

 The birthday girl with her morning coffee

 Sweet Sam, waiting on his breakfast.

Our family birthday traditions include:
  • A surprise decoration of our kitchen table when the birthday child awakens.
  • Wrapped gifts (some of them lovingly handmade) stacked in front of our fireplace.  They are opened either before or after breakfast, depending on the wishes of the birthday child.
  • All three meals of the day selected by the birthday child.  We will take them to a restaurant, order take-out, or I'll prepare a home-cooked meal, whatever the child wants or a combination of all three.
  • A special dessert (with candles) selected by the birthday child
  • All other family members doing the birthday child's chores for the day.
  • No school if the birthday falls during the school year.
  • A day of leisure for the birthday child.  He or she is allowed to spend the day playing/crafting/reading/building, etc. with his or her gifts.  
  • The day only comes once a year, and it is an important day, celebrating the life of my precious child, so we try to make a big deal of it.
  • Large parties are not necessary, nor do we even have outside the family birthday parties every year.  There is no rhyme or reason to whether or not my children have birthday parties, we just take it year by year and child by child.

 Julie with her gifts.

 Opening a set of books from Olivia.

 Displaying the pot holder that Leah made her.

 The requested birthday dessert:  homemade banana pudding.  I actually made the vanilla pudding from scratch!
Clay decorated the top.

 Singing "Happy  Birthday"!
Jimmy's parents surprised us with a visit, and so we invited them to stay for supper.  We had lots of cooked fresh vegetables (including tomatoes and squash from our own garden) and corn bread. 

Sam, Granmomma, and Leah.

Happy Birthday Julie!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Day of Canning

I have already completed 4 canning sessions (which is one reason why I have not been blogging), and as I get ready to start another batch, I thought I would blog along as I go.  You can enjoy the process too, and hopefully I won't make any mistake or have any mishaps as I go.  I plan to share my Monday's canning saga later……so you can learn from my mistakes.  :)

Here goes.

10:56 AM:  Drain and rinse garbanzo beans (11 cups, dried) that have been soaking since about 7:00 PM last night.
11:03 AM:  Put beans back in huge pot (my water bath canner), cover with about 3 inches of water, and place on stove with burner on extra high.
Wash, dry and put away bowl, colander, and large measuring cup used to drain and rinse big pot of beans.
11:06 AM:  Wash 16 pint jars, lids, and rings (that I will use to can these beans in).
Put 3 inches of water in pressure canner to bring to a simmer.
Turn oven on warm setting to place clean, dry jars in to keep warm.
Run down to basement to get one more lid and ring.
Periodically check and stir beans.  Waiting for them to come to a boil.
11:21 AM:  Put lids in small pot of water to simmer.
Dry jars and place in oven to keep warm.
Let rings dry on dish towel.
Stir beans…..almost boiling.
11:25 AM:  Skim icky foam off top of beans…..still not quite boiling.
Run outside to check if polaris is through cleaning the pool.
11:29 AM:    Skimmed more icky foam off top.  The beans are now boiling!  Set the timer for 30 minutes.
It is so nice outside this morning…..when Leanna and I ran at 6:00 AM, it was 59 degrees!  In July!  In Mississippi!  When I checked on the polaris (and the pool is clean so I turned it off and also took the water hose out of the pool because the water level is back up---I had backwashed the pool earlier and the water was down…), I was tempted to come inside, turn everything off, grab a book and go sit outside by my pool and enjoy the beautiful day.
WHOOPS!  The beans started boiling over while I was typing……I turned the heat down and skimmed off more icky foam.  All is well now!
11:35 AM:  While the beans are happily boiling, and I have everything ready, I am going to fold a load of clothes and put another load in the dryer, and another load in the washer…..checking back on the beans periodically…..
11:44 AM:  Pleasant surprise in the laundry room--there was NOT a load in the dryer waiting to be folded.  Just a few hang-to-dry items.  I found a sleeping bag that someone had left in the floor, so I folded it and put it away.  Checked on the beans.  Stirred them--they are doing great!  Finished my 3rd cup of coffee, and now I'm switching to water.
Scanned Facebook while waiting for the beans to finish…..(my laptop is on the counter right beside my stove)
11:55 AM:  Scanning The Happiness Project (also a title of the book I am currently reading) website.
Stirred the beans.  They are almost through with their 30 minutes of boiling.
11:59 AM: The timer is beeping!  The beans are ready to can.
I turned the beans down to simmer.  I will take each hot jar from the oven, fill with beans using a slotted spoon, then fill with cooking liquid using a ladle.  Add salt.  Remove air bubbles (using a small cedar tool hand-carved by my grandmother).  Wipe jar tops.  Place lid on top (removing the lid from the simmering water using my new magnet stick).  Put on ring.  Place jar in pressure canner.  Repeat until the canner is full of all 16 pints.  I'll let you know if I have any beans left over…..it's hard to guesstimate how many dried beans to prepare.
12:28 PM:  All 16 jars are filled and in the canner, but I still have some beans left.  I am quickly washing and heating 4 more jars, lids, and rings.
12:37 PM:  All 20 pints are in the canner!  The lid is bolted down, and the burner is turned on extra high.  I fill be following my canner's instructions--to vent steam for 7 minutes (it's not venting yet), and then putting the "jiggler" on 10# pressure, let it come to a jiggle, and start my timer for 75 minutes.  Then  I will need to reduce heat until it is jiggling only 1-4 times a minute….for 75 minutes.
I have a few beans left.  I am going to transfer them to a smaller pot, and cook them for about 30 more minutes, or until tender.  We will eat them for supper.
12:42 PM:  I drained the beans left in the huge pot.  And there were truly "a few" beans left.  Like about 10 beans!  So we will be eating some freshly canned beans for supper!  :)
Going to take a lunch break while waiting for the pressure canner to build up pressure.
1:05 PM:  The canner has vented, and I waiting for the regulator to jiggle.
Washing all my canning pots and such, and also cleaning up the kitchen from lunch and the refrigerator clean out.
1:11 PM:  The 75 minutes processing time begins now!
Still washing dishes.
1:32 PM:  Dishes are all washed.  Dishwasher started.  Now to fold clothes and put last load in dryer.
1:51 PM:  Going to walk down to the garden and pick tomatoes.  Since I have not had enough fun canning today, I am going to put up some tomatoes too!  I'll need 10 pounds to make 8-9 pints.  I have 7 pounds in my kitchen right now.  I hope to find at least 3 pounds of ripe tomatoes on the vines.
2:12 PM:  Back from the garden.  Big surprise!  We have green beans!  I picked a small amount, and so we will enjoy green beans for supper tonight too!  I picked 2 squash and a bunch of tomatoes.  I'm about to weigh out three more pounds and wash them all.
2:27 PM:  The beans are done.  I turned off the heat, and now I have to wait until the pressure gauge reads 0, then I can remove the regulator, and then the lid to let the jars begin to cool.
I am going to take a short break before I tackle the tomatoes.
Leah is sick today--she woke up with a sore throat, headache, and a fever.   I have been giving her ibuprofen every 4-5 hours, but she still feels poorly.  She is wrapped up in two blankets in the recliner in the den.
2:43 PM:  Ok.  Break is over. (I ate a bowl of oatmeal and looked at a quilting book….I want to make a quilt….maybe when I finish all of this canning!)
My big canning pot of water is almost boiling, so I better wash and core the tomatoes.
2:52 PM:  Put tomatoes in boiling water.  Prepared ice bath (all the contents from my ice maker in a dishpan and cold water) to plunge the tomatoes in after they boil for 90 seconds.  This makes the skins slip right off.
2:59 PM:  Peeled tomatoes.  Put tomatoes in large tray and quartered them. Put tomatoes and their juices in huge stock pot to bring to a boil.
Rinsed out canner and refilled halfway.  Put on burner to bring to a boil.
Beans have still not cooled enough to remove lid yet.
3:18 PM:  I have the tomatoes simmering.  The water in the canner is heating.  The pressure dropped to zero on the pressure canner, so I removed the lid and am now putting the canned garbanzo beans on the counter to cool.  I am waiting to hear the popping of the lids sealing.
3:29 PM:  The jars are washed and being kept warm in the oven.  The lids and rings are washed, and the lids are simmering in a pot of water.  The canning water is heating.  The tomatoes are simmering.  I'm going to give the jars just a few minutes more to get warm (while I check on the laundry) and then I will begin filling the jars with tomatoes.  I am not sure how many pints my tomatoes will yield yet.  We will see.
3:43 PM:  The clothes are folded.  I checked on Leah and gave her some Coke.  Everything is all ready, so it's time for me to start filling jars with tomatoes.
3:56 PM:  The tomatoes are in the water bath canner, and will process for 40 minutes.  It made 8 pints.
Now I'm going to clean everything up.
4:13 PM:  The dishes are done.  I am going to eat a snack and then take a shower while the tomatoes are processing.  I ran 9 miles this morning, and I have not had time to take a shower yet!
4:44 PM:  I am clean.  The tomatoes are out of the canner, sitting beside the beans, and all are cooling.

Canning complete.

I'm going to sit with Leah and rest a few minutes, and then I'll cook supper.  :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Menu, Miles, and More

We spent last week hosting four young men, who along with Clay, attended Preacher Training Classes all week.  The boys at my housed renamed it "Preacher Camp".  Counting Clay, we had three 15 year olds, a 19 year old, and a 20 year all, from the previous Saturday until this past Friday.

Fun.  Food.  Fellowship.

They left each morning at 7:30, and they returned around 6:30 each night.  I only had to feed them breakfast and a nighttime snack each day, because ladies from our congregation took turns providing the 20 men lunch and supper each day.

When they got home each evening, they spent an hour of two unwinding before studying and doing their homework (for hours!  some nights until 2 A.M) before going to bed.  I let them use the schoolroom in our basement for their work, and when it came time for sleep, I had each boy in a separate room.  It really worked out well.

But I had no time to blog.  :)  And that's ok.

Yesterday was Julie's 17th birthday.  Happy Day.  I will post pictures and share about the big day another day.  (The pictures are still in the camera.)

Menu This Week:
Monday:  refried beans, Spanish rice, green chili white bean dip
Tuesday:  curried cauliflower and couscous
Wednesday:  cilantro lime quinoa with black beans
Thursday:  roasted sweet potato and quinoa salad
Friday:  BBQ bean wraps

Miles This Week:
I ran zero miles last week.  ZERO.
I was somewhat overwhelmed with the house guests and the cooking (I also helped to feed the men for lunch and supper Thursday), and the laundry, and I tried to do some school planning….so I never ran last week!  However, I have a 32 mile week planned for this week.  I have got to do 30+ miles the next 3-4 weeks in order to be ready to begin my marathon training.  (Which I said I was NOT running last week……)

Monday:  7
Tuesday:  6
Wednesday:  9
Thursday:  rest
Friday:  5
Saturday:  5

Be sure to check out OrgJunkie.com beginning Monday for some menu inspiration.

I finished Little Women and I also read Fahrenheit 451 in just two days over the weekend.  I'll blog my thoughts about both books later.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


The children and I spent a couple of days visiting my parents, and now we are home.  It was a nice visit, full of lively conversation, delicious food, and lots of free time.

Now I am home and back to work.  Our congregation is hosting a preacher training program next week, and the trainees will arrive Saturday afternoon.  Our family will host 3 young men (two teenagers and a 20yo) in our home for the week.  So I am buying LOTS of groceries!

I worked for a couple of hours on my menu and shopping lists, which included my monthly Sam's and Walmart stock-up trips.  Today I plan to go to Walmart, Sam's and Kroger, plus a couple of other errands as well.

I don't have to provide all the meals for the week-----we are having a potluck meal on Sunday, and Monday-Friday, various ladies from our congregation will be providing lunches and suppers for the trainees.  They will all eat together at one of our elder's homes.  Leanna and I are taking supper on Thursday night.  I still have to feed my family all week though, and feed the young men (and my family) substantial breakfast and bedtime snacks, and so I have the longest grocery list ever!

I really like my preprinted shopping lists.  In case you don't know what I am talking about, I have two different lists that I typed on my computer.  One is a Walmart/Sam's list, and the other is a Kroger/Sam's list.  I have Sam's listed on both lists because sometimes my Sam's shopping is my once a month stock up (on the Walmart/Sam's list), and sometimes it is a shorter list of produce (on the Kroger/Sam's list).
I keep these lists taped inside our pantry door, and I highlight items as we run out of them.  When I am ready to make my final list, I take the lists down, replace them with a new one for the next week or month, and finish highlighting and adding things to the list.  Each list has all of the items that I commonly buy, week after week, month after month.  I have my Kroger list items in order that I see them as I walk through the store.  They are making some changes in the arrangement of my Kroger right now (integrating the organic products throughout the store instead of leaving them as they are--in their own little section……which I am not happy about, and I kindly told the store manager this!), so I will have to retype my list when they are through moving things around!

My to do list today includes running 5 miles, paying bills, preparing other items to mail, working in my garden, and then the major shopping.  I better get back to work!

Happy Thursday!

Monday, June 30, 2014


I have always used copy work in my homeschool, some years more than others.  I plan on having Sam do a good bit of copy work during the upcoming school year.  However, I need some ideas for how to actually create it.  I have the sources of what I want him to copy:  Bible verses we are learning, some poems, passages from books he is reading, etc., but what I don't have is how to create the pages for him to copy.

I have created copy work in the past two different ways.

  1. I wrote down the passages on lined paper.  This takes quite a bit of time, and I can't do weeks at a time because my hand gets tired and my handwriting gets less neat.
  2. StartWrite.  I had this program on our old windows computers.  But now we have all Macs, and I am not sure that I want to buy the newest version of StartWrite.  I don't remember it being all that user-friendly.  Which is why I ended up handwriting most of my copy work.
Do any of you have any ideas for me?  I have OpenOffice on my laptop and Pages on our desktop computer.  I am looking for a way to generate copy work using either of those programs.  I simply want to type the passage at the top of the page and then have correctly spaced lines for him to copy underneath.

I'll handwrite it if I have to, but I really would prefer to type it!  And I want to prepare several weeks' worth of copy work at one time if possible.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Beginning My School Year Planning

Finally.  I am beginning to plan for the 2014-2015 school year.  It will take me a while to get all of my books and supplies ordered and then to plan everything all out.  I like to do as much as possible during our summer break, so when school actually begins, I can just follow the plan.  Not spend every Sunday night getting things ready for the upcoming week.

How do I begin?

  • Clean out the children's work buckets.  That is what I call whatever they keep their school books and various supplies in.  Last year it was crates.  I emptied them completely out about a month ago.  Filed important papers, threw away a lot of trash, and only put back in the crates the books they would need for the upcoming school year.
  • Create a shopping list.  I wrote each child's name on a piece of paper and underneath listed every subject he would study next year.  Then I created another list where I wrote down every item that I had to buy as I listed each child's subjects.  Clear as mud?
  • For example:  On Sam's list, the first item was Horizons Math, Grade 3, Student Workbooks 1&2.  So on my ongoing "to buy" list, I wrote down Horizons Math, Grade 3, WB 1&2.
  • I did this for all four of my home schooled students.  I ended up with 16 items that I need to buy (for all 4 children), not including my Sonlight purchases.  I'll work on that list next.  
  • I was able to find everything that I needed at CBD.com. I plan to double check my list tonight and then place my order!
  • I do find that I am ordering less each year, because I use as many non-consumable products as possible.  I have one more Instructor's Guide to buy from Sonlight (Core E, because previously I used Core D/E combo, and for Leah and Sam I am using separate Cores for D and E), and then I will be done buying IGs from Sonlight.  I now have all IGs from Pre3/4 all the way through Core W (which I have instead of separate Cores G and H).  Plus Core 100.  
Back to planning and shopping.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I'm Done

With the kids' help, I finished my deep cleaning checklist before lunch this morning.  I must admit that I lost steam by the time we got to the kids' bedrooms and bathrooms, but they helped me and we got it done.

I may never clean again.  (Until next week.)

I celebrated my clean house with a lunch date with Jimmy.  A late anniversary date.  We went to KOK (Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen) in downtown Tupelo.  KOK serves fresh cooked food using locally sourced ingredients.  The menu featured entrees named for famous Mississippians.  I had the Brittany Spears Romaine Wrap, and Jimmy had the 80's Oprah Salad.  Both were delicious!  For dessert we went to Starbucks.  Yum.

Then we ran some errands (because when you have been married for 23 years, and you are in town without five children in tow---even though they are all big and can walk on their on and all---running errands on a date is actually fun).   Here is the exciting line-up:
Harbor Freight (I sat in the car for this one and made my grocery list.)
Home Depot

The boys are going to their monthly knife club meeting tonight and I plan to start working on my school stuff.  The girls and I will also probably play dominoes or rummy cube after supper.

Summer fun!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Still Cleaning

Today is my third full day of cleaning.  I have been alternating about one hour of work with 30 minutes of diversion.  Today's diversion has been Pinterest.  I'm looking for fun back to school ideas.  August 4th will be here before I know it.  I still haven't even made a list of what I need for next school year much less ordered anything yet.  I'll get to it in a few days----after I get my house all clean.

Jimmy and Clay made me the best home improvement!  They worked all day yesterday cutting, hauling, and installing installing paneling and shelves inside our "secret room".  It's an unfinished area of our house where we keep plastic storage boxes of the children's toys and things and all of the baby and toddler toys that I want to keep (like the play kitchen, workbench, doll cribs, Little People, etc.)  Two walls were studs and exposed insulation, and that is what they covered, floor to ceiling.  It is fabulous!



I think I can finish my list of deep cleaning tomorrow.
Then it's on to school planning, organizing, and ordering.